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201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die #6: Young Bucks vs. World's Cutest Tag Team
[A long time ago in a War Rig far, far away, a young War Boy named 'Plan wrote an excellent column series called 101 WWE Matches to See Before You Die. It was perfect, so perfect that it's now a book you can buy on Amazon! There was just one problem; it only focused on WWE matches! Thus, as a fellow War Boy, I've taken it upon myself to take a look at the other stuff, compiling a list of 201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die. This right here is entry #6. Enjoy! And buy 'Plan's book!]
It's been a big few years for women's wrestling. After what seemed like a decade of America's Next Top Model candidates putting out quality that even Michael Bay would cringe at, the wrestling world has seen the overall scope of the women's division rise up. Indie promotions completely devoted to just women's wrestling have become more accessible than they were back in the days of Lita and Trish. The bigger wrestling promotions are now actually trying to push women's wrestling as a respectable thing, with results ranging from the excellent to the incomplete to the grossly incompetent. Most notably (or perhaps not, depending on your wrestling viewing range) however is the return to prominence of the inter-gender match, aka man vs. woman matches. I know, I know, for some of you inter-gender matches are as good an idea as Buffy sleeping with Angel; they're either not believable enough ("how can a woman that size beat up a man?!"), they're exploitative or they're just in poor taste. In the wrong hands, I could agree with some of that. But with the right booker, the right performers and the right story, I've come to find that inter-gender matches can be quite powerful. I mean hell, what's more inspiring than a woman, who's probably been told she can never make it to the same level as the men, standing toe to toe with them, overcoming the odds and kicking the ever loving shit out of them? Hell, isn't that the kind of shit that makes us love Mad Max: Fury Road so much?
On July 27th, 2014, the super cool top level indie promotion Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) held a show called Eleven (sort of an anniversary show as PWG started in 2003, eleven years before). The main event of the show was, you guessed it, an intergender match for the PWG Tag Team Championships. The champions were the Young Bucks, perhaps the most popular (and loathed) tag team in the world and the answer to what would happen if you mixed Shawn Michaels with Nathan Fillion and Hudson from Aliens. The challengers were the World's Cutest Tag Team, a duo consisting of indie legend and mustache hall of famer Joey Ryan and the heroine of our story, Candice LeRae. Born in Winnipeg (but inexplicably an Anaheim Ducks fan, thus making her Matt Mortensen's favorite wrestler), LeRae began wrestling back in 2002 at the age 17 and would go onto become one of PWG's top stars after joining them in 2006 (or 2008. Damn you Cagematch and Wikipedia for confusing the masses!). In 2013, she and Ryan (former rivals) would join forces to unsuccessfully challenge the Young Bucks for the titles, followed by a year of the two teams battling back and forth (with the Bucks' Mount Rushmore of Wrestling teammates Kevin Steen and Adam Cole getting involved). This match, which by the way was fought under Guerilla Warfare rules (that's PWG for anything goes) was LeRae and Ryan's second chance to get the gold.
For all the talk about how matches need a story or psychology or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days, it's easily forgotten that matches are first and foremost supposed to be fun. That's the first thing you can say about this bout here; it's complete, unadulterated, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World levels of fun. The tone is set at the start, where the Young Bucks throw chairs right into the faces of LeRae and Ryan as they enter the ring, leading to a nice five to seven minutes of fast paced action. You want dives? You got them. You want Candice doing a through the ropes tornado DDT to the outside? You got that. You want her dressed in PWG legend Super Dragon's mask as she forearms Nick Jackson all the way into the abyss? You're even in luck there! Certainly, some people will frown on the practice of all style, no substance, but you cannot deny it works here. By the time LeRae has done her second tornado DDT of the match (this time with an assist from Ryan all the way at the announcer's area), the entire PWG building is rocking. I'd reckon they would've kept rocking if the rest of the match had followed that same fast paced style.
Instead, the pace slows (as much as it possibly can) as the Young Bucks take control, and the match turns into the classic it has become. Say what you will about the Bucks (and many a person has), but these are two guys who know how to work as grade A heels even when they're providing highlight reel moves. Their work here is exceptional, as they dominate LeRae and Ryan for what feels like a good ten minutes. Whenever one of the World's Cutest Tag Team seems to get momentum, Matt or Nick is there to snuff it out and regain control, all while displaying their cocky as hell charm. Of course, the domination is fine, but what makes it even more effective is the hidden trick pulled off. For the majority of this beatdown, the Bucks aren't targeting Ryan, who pretty much becomes a supporting player waiting to make the save. No, the Bucks are instead targeting LeRae, and not just because they have to; they take an enjoyment in it, as if there was nothing else in the world they'd rather be doing than kicking the crap out of her.
Understandably, that sounds a tad disturbing right there; two men taking complete and utter glee in beating down a woman. What makes it effective is that it takes the awfulness of that and adds it to the already captivating narrative Candice LeRae has. As said earlier, it's tough enough to make it in a women's division these days; it's a whole other animal to make it going up against the guys too. That narrative, and the at times vicious beating Candice takes during this interval helps get the crowd (already on the World's Cutest Tag Team's side despite their appreciation for the Young Bucks) get even more behind her. They wanted to see the girl stand toe to toe with the evil Young Bucks and punish them for their cruelty, they want to see her prove she's tougher than the boys and they roar as it becomes more apparent how far she's willing to go to prove her worth. And then it happens; the moment where everything changed, the moment that turned this match from entertaining to great.
After the Young Bucks stretch of domination, the World's Cutest Tag Team finally gained momentum, leading to some back and forth action and a few near falls before the Bucks took over again. By now, they'd used everything but the kitchen sink...and a boot with thumbtacks glued to the bottom, which Matt Jackson found under the ring (I swear, one of these days someone is going to pull the map of Atlantis or the Holy Grail from under there. You can literally find everything and anything under a wrestling ring). Initially, it looked as though he would kick Ryan...until Candice suddenly stepped in front of him, sacrificing herself to save him. Without hesitation, Matt reared back and gave her what might be the brutal superkick I've ever seen in my life. Candice was immediately bused open (think Fenix during Grave Consequences but 100 times worse) and the PWG crowd, hot all night, actually goes quiet for a moment. Even a certain guest commentator for the show, a stable mate of the Bucks in Mt. Rushmore, admitted that the kick went too far. It was a vile act that made everyone within the premises want to see the Young Bucks get crushed, grinded into tiny pieces and blasted into oblivion.
They got their wish. Against all odds, Ryan was able to break up Matt's pinfall on Candice and then proceeded to duck a superkick from Matt (which caught Nick instead). Cleverly, Ryan took off Matt's boot, dropped his bare foot into thumbtacks lying in the ring and bashed Matt over the head with the boot, all before spearing Nick out of the ring and through a table set up on the outside. With the crowd alive again, the finish was set; Candice, her face covered in blood, rose to her feet and found herself all alone in the ring with the man who had injured her so greatly. Poetically, she took her revenge by ballplexing Matt into the turnbuckle, followed by her picking up thumbtacks and sticking them down his pants. I told you it was poetic! One ballplex onto more thumbtacks later (which no doubly hurt because again, THERE WERE THUMBTACKS STUCK DOWN POOR MATT'S PANTS!) and it's one, two, three. The crowd roared, Ryan returned to the ring and embraced a bloody LeRae and the World's Cutest Tag Team began their first reign as PWG Tag Team Champions. I'll let you all now go ice your nuts before we wrap this thing up.
Yes indeed, this was a happy ending for all involved, even the losers. The World's Cutest Tag Team held the PWG Tag Titles for nearly a year before dropping them in May of 2015, and have continued on successfully since, while the Young Bucks are still considered the best tag team in the world by a lot of people. At the end of the day, the legacies of both teams and all the individuals involved likely won't come back to this match, as they all have so much more to give. Still, it's a bout we should all look back on years from now and admire. It's got everything; a match that is unbelievably entertaining from bell to bell and the story of a woman taking the best shot of the dastardly evil tag team and giving them a taste of their own medicine. For that, it wasn't just a great match, it was a great moment for women in wrestling. Ten years ago, an inter-gender match like this would've featured the woman getting squashed or the guy coming in on the white horse to save the day. In this match, Candice LeRae got on the white horse and won the PWG Tag Team Championships. It was cool, it was kind of epic, and it was a whole lot of fun.
Now just think about how it'll be when she wins the PWG Championship. Because it's coming folks, and it's going to be even better.
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